Jehovah’s Witnesses Slammed in Phoenix

If you fill to near capacity a 40,000+ seat stadium for a volunteer event, put on by volunteers, surely those of the local media will be impressed. Not the Phoenix New Times reporter! who is “weirded-out” by aspects of the gathering that most would find commendable, and barely mentions the event anyway, as she immerses herself in the narrative of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ harshest detractors. Plainly, the packed stadium photos and the gist of the article do not match.

I could be wrong, but I think most will recognize this piece as a hit job, and it might even motivate some to go there to investigate, where they will see that the tone of it is nonsense. “Three days of music-video presentations, prayers, songs, addresses, symposiums, and dramatic readings from the Bible,” according the event program, will intrigue some as a refreshing rarity.

Are they so “cultish” as the reporter charges? Stadium and hospitality personnel often cannot praise JWs enough, rarely encountering such orderly and pleasant people. A reporter in Miami wishes that the Marlins could fill their own stadium to capacity as have Jehovah’s Witnesses. A shock jock in Rochester a few years back waxed ecstatic over Witnesses when he found that they categorically reject violence. “These are my people!” he gushed on-air. Another stadium is said to accept as payment-in-full the thorough annual scouring that the Witnesses give the facility. Others reporters, such as this millennial in New Orleans, wrote it up that, while they certainly are different in beliefs, still they are just ordinary folk come together for religious instruction.

Not everyone will be as shocked and disdainful as the Phoenix reporter that there are still some people who dress up. Not everyone will gasp in disapproval at counsel that we ought watch who we hang out with. If the New Times reporter felt “conspicuous in pants,” well—that’s hardly the fault of the attendees. She could have chosen to be not conspicuous had she been concerned about it. When I invite people to conventions, I observe: “You are perfectly welcome to come just as you are. But if you don’t have one of these [I flip my tie], everyone will assume you are a visitor, and they may just come to preach to you.” Householders smile at the heads-up.

The blatant ill will and bias of the New Times article is evident even in trivial matters, such as the reporter’s disdain that “attendees listened rapturously,” as though they should be expected to nod off. In fact, some of them do after lunch on long afternoons, and it was worse before the days of efficient air conditioning. Don’t attendees of concerts or rallies also listen rapturously? Why come if you do not?

Not all will smirk at the “lowest rate of retention on all religions” that Witnesses suffer. Many will realize that it is more than offset by the high rate of participation from those that stick. After all, there are many faiths where members might not actually leave, but how would you know if they did? The high participation rate actually accounts for the lower retention rate, for inevitably some will tire of it and opt for something less strenuous. Similarly, not everyone will be shocked that should you do a 180 and ardently attack what you once embraced, relations with the family may suffer. Of course they will. It is not brands of automobiles that we speak of.

But the bulk of the article deals disapprovingly with how Witnesses have grappled with the same child sexual abuse plague that has shown itself pandemic throughout society—be it in segments religious or irreligious. The recent Epstein “suicide” only underscores that the evil reaches into the highest echelons of society, some members of whom appear desperate to cover their tracks. If, in the opinion of the ARC, “children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation,” frequent news reports make clear that they are not “adequately protected” anywhere. Even the Boy Scouts of America, that iconic institution that has taught generations of boys responsibility, did not succeed in purging all pedophiles from its midst, and is at risk of going under for it.

Arguably, as Jehovah’s Witnesses have attempted to police their own, they have faltered in coordinating such internal “policing” with the actual police. Still, this must be countered by the consideration that few faiths make any attempt at all to look into wrongdoing within the ranks. When a member is nabbed for child sexual abuse, it is as much of a surprise to the minister as anyone else. Moreover, with some groups, the minister is the perpetrator—not just the one who investigates the sin.

Jehovah’s Witnesses live, work, and school in the general community. They are politically neutral, and as such, are pacifist. The same Pew source that tells of their “low retention rate” also says of them: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America.” Just how sinister can they be? In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses were declared “extremist” and banned in 2017 for entirely separate reasons, the topic of child abuse having never once arisen—and their woes are exacerbated by the same critics attempting to take them down in the West with diatribes that are embraced by the New Times.

One almost senses that the reporter’s discomfort at being offered help three separate times by three separate attendants to find a seat might stem from an uncomfortable sense that they have somehow discerned her intention to accept their hospitality and then lambaste them on the media. Charges against Jehovah’s Witnesses that she has showcased here—which are certainly not nothing—are dealt with in the free ebook TrueTom vs the Apostates! which includes 10+ chapters on the core charge of child abuse.

As society increasingly becomes disillusioned with God, it is inevitable that participatory religion will be regarded as cultish. What Jehovah’s Witnesses think of articles such as in the New Times is immaterial. Historically, they rise to fight the battles laid before them. They are used to presenting their faith through its most appealing lens. Let them become used, if need be, to presenting it through its least appealing lens, for both are to be expected of imperfect persons attempting to apply Bible standards in a world that increasingly shrugs them off.

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Tight Pants, Wide Ties, Volkswagen Buses, and Holding the Watchtower

When Anthony Morris, at the 2016 Regional in Atlanta, spoke of coming down south, and his sons had asked him ‘What is a redneck?’ he replied that they “would know them when they saw them.”

He was having fun with his opening remarks. Everyone....well, almost everyone....took it in that spirit. In case there was someone who did not, in a subsequent talk he walked it back, referring to the gentle “folk wisdom” of the south.

He speaks off the cuff sometimes. Rise, for he too is human. He probably regrets that remark about the tight pants, because various soreheads have made it their year text ever since. 

It is very difficult counseling a huge and diverse group of people One will say: “Thanks for the new RULE!!” and his companion will say: “Huh? Did you say something?” I think he and those of his group just don’t want to find themselves in the shoes of Lot, whose sons-in-law thought he was joking.

Even at the Watchtower study last Sunday, the conductor gave an aside about the tight pants, observing that they must have to be put on when wet, so as to allow the fabric to stretch over the feet. Strictly speaking, (even loosely speaking) it is not necessary. But an 80-year old can be forgiven for a few seconds (it was no more than that, and he is universally regarded as a man of integrity and good judgment) of scratching his head and expressing bewilderment at the world that is today.

This is the same Watchtower conductor whose lifelong secular work was that of a Porsche dealer mechanic, and who quit in disgust when Porsche began manufacturing SUVs, as though an elite art museum commenced displaying that painting of the dogs playing poker. It’s not true, he tells me. He was about to retire anyway, but he does nothing to counter the crotchety-sounding meme that others have spread around. 

This is the same Watchtower Study, on how the wisdom of Jehovah is superior to the wisdom of this world, in which I thought the artwork was wrong. The VW bus is one from the 70’s, whereas it should have been one with a funky grill that was from the 60’s. The impeccably dressed brother with the hat is from the 50s—hadn’t dress hats pretty well faded out by the mid-60s? And don’t get me going about the “hippy” conversing with him, who no doubt took off his wig and clothes thereafter and resumed his place analyzing a computer spreadsheet at Bethel.

And while I am on the topic of that Watchtower:

My daughter is in town for a few weeks. At the study observation of how some say God-given sexual desire argues for promiscuity, she said: “Well, that’s stupid! God made me to have to pee, too. Does that mean I should pee my pants?”

“That’s my daughter!” I told the family gathering, as she related her remark. Frankly, I wish I had thought of it.

But back to the tight pants. They were tight in the early 60s, too, and I can remember battles with my [non-Witness] Dad because I wanted to wear them and he had a fit over it, though I gradually won out. Even the “spray-on” descriptions are from the past. I wore clamdiggers, too, cool pants that came in pastel colors, had a stripe down the side, and ended mid-shin. I wore them when visiting my uncle who lived way way out in the sticks, and he said: “What are you doing wearing peddle-pushers? Those are girls’ pants!!” They weren’t peddlepushers, you hillbilly. They were cool clamdiggers.

It’s not just pants. Ties widened in the late 60’s as well, regaining the status they previously had given up. I remember Brother Park giving a talk about how the Bethel brothers were very concerned for Brother Knorr, who showed up for meals day after day with very wide ties at a time when the styles were changing—I think he said they ultimately became as thin as a pencil. Those brothers were so worried about him, because he was “not in style.”

“BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED?!” he gasped. Ties began to reverse and became wider and wider—and now Brother Knorr is “in style!”

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Reporter at 2 O'Clock. Roger That.

A 30-ish, I would guess, reporter attended one of this year's regional conventions, this one in New Orleans, and wrote some reasonably nice things about it. He didn’t fall upon his face and do a Zechariah 8:23 – ‘We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people’ – but considering his non-religious reporter background, I’ll take what he did write and thank him for it. You don't have to quibble over every little thing.

Since I have time on my hands, and no, I was not notified by an attendant (guard), let me see if I can respond to a few things he raised. His words are in italics. Mine in regular font.

The Jehovah's Witnesses' Annual Convention Was So Organized It Was Creepy. 

They are extremely organized. It might strike one as creepy who is not used to it.

Aside from the occasional door-to-door visits and that one time, which I still feel guilty about, when my brother drenched some evangelists with water balloons from our second-story bedroom window, I had never really met a Jehovah's Witness.

It took me two trips to the dry cleaners to get those water marks out of my suit.

 Also, I knew Prince was a member, and any religious group that could claim Prince as one of their own was either extremely terrifying or weirdly edgy and almost cool.

The ebook Tom Irregardless and Me contains the most complete, and perhaps only, written compilation of Prince’s JW life. It is in the free download section.

…they even took care of cleaning, despite the Superdome's retainer on dozens of janitors.

It may be the only event for which they get time off. The Witnesses usually show up a day beforehand for a massive scrub-down.

One Superdome employee said to me, "These guys are guarding the elevators like Obama is here."

As far as I know, he did not come. He would have been invited, but may have been hard to reach.

Plus, their floral-printed dresses and charcoal suits made most guests look like they were dressed for a wake.

If one is not used to seeing folks dressed up, and it is a rarety today, the sight could easily give that impression.

As a further sign of their top-down control of every aspect of the convention, or maybe just a tight budget, none of the concession booths were open.

It is like that in every convention and has always been. People brown-bag it. However, go back far enough to the 50’s or so and there were makeshift kitchens set up & taken down to serve a full meal to every attendee. Food arrangements have progressively streamlined since then.

It's a bit unsettling to realize you're one of the only people in a room of nearly 40,000 who think you're not destined for heaven, and not even destined for the earthly paradise that the remaining Jehovah's Witnesses will inherit after all the other degenerate heathens like me are abruptly taken out by the apocalypse. Their beliefs are their beliefs after all, but I don't often contemplate the afterlife in the presence of a group whose faith is so relentless. It's convert or burn, and that's heavy s**t, man.  [**’s mine]

We would not phrase matters this way. We just try to bring the gospel to as many as we can, and after that things are out of our hands. As the expression goes: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” (though we would not phrase matters that way, either)

There was a big, climactic event on the bill that sounded like it was supposed to be a live drama depicting something from the Book of Something.

Jonah. it was from the Book of Jonah. Actually, it was the entire book, which is overall quite short.

…everyone was wearing way too much makeup. It was like a B movie made by the Bible Channel.

I actually thought the movie was pretty good, overall. They have come a long ways in a short time, and once were downright cheesy. Great attention is paid that all props are historically accurate. It may be that you just miss the Hollywood pizzazz in which Moses pops Pharaoh in the nose and gets the girl. Admittedly, they are not paid actors. They, too, are volunteers.

a bunch of men walked around holding "Quiet Please" signs that had already been made.

This happens before all sessions, as it takes participants a while to break off visiting with friends they may not have seen for a long time.

But while I still don't understand the Jehovah's Witness faith or its people, and while I may still think of them as cult-addled nuts, they're still just people.

You know, I’ll take this. I appreciate it. And I really do like the article for its reminder of the first impression we make on many today.

But they also like peanut butter sandwiches. 

I hate to think of the garbage I might be eating were it not for my wife, who attends to such things far better than I do.

...and they especially like organizing conventions.

The exact program is reproduced hundreds of times during the year around the world, each with the same degree of organization, so as to serve every member. Ours was in Rochester, and here is a post on a previous one.

 

 

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These Are My People

Time was when those district conventions geared up very slowly.

Sit down.....listen up....take notes....get enough sleep....keep track of your kids....if you were already planning to behave you could just as well skip that first talk, and if you weren't - well, one talk was not going to change things much. Then there might follow an talk-by-talk preview of the program, stretching out 20 minutes or so. Then a few old timers would surface on stage, interviewed for historical flavor. Maybe some pioneers next, and then some others whom life had kicked in the teeth, but who had withstood trial, and credited faith for their win.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed hearing from all these folks. The point is, though, that the program kept trotting out appetizer after appetizer, and the main course took a long time to appear.

No more. This year, the first talk hits the ground running. Why Must We "Keep on the Watch," to cite Jesus' counsel. You wouldn't think people would be so spiritually lethargic in a time of cataclysmic events, the type we routinely see on the news. But they are. Events that once would have set folks back on their heels for weeks, they now just shrug off as one of those things and carry on. Just like Jesus' words indicate at Matt 24:38-39:

For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.

Thus, Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. From this counsel the 2009 convention draws its theme: Keep on the Watch.   (vs 42)

 

Okay, so those laid-back folks might go to Barnes & Noble and pick up a timely paperback. And some others might throw in the towel completely to worship the Dawkins-Harris-Hitchings trinity. But serious searching they don't do. And the message comes right to their house, for crying out loud. But talk about the end of this system, and people take it as a big joke, just like Peter wrote:

For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”   2 Pet 3:3-4  

sigh

I liked the Sunday morning program, as well - starting with a nine part symposium discussing foretold events from the great tribulation to the end of the 1000 year reign, presented compact and fast-moving. You'd swear, as a building employee did at a prior Raleigh convention (according to visiting Tom Oxgoad) that the convention speakers were well-paid professional speakers, but no; they're all local brothers - unpaid volunteers, as is true with everything else Jehovah's Witnesses do.

That moron in the devil suit was back also, as well as the usual gang of protesters, about a half dozen or so outside the building, though you'd think they were far more, judging by the noise they made. "Why don't you just pop them one?" one of the cops asked an attendant, so said the concluding speaker. Well....we've got a reputation to uphold. But I can sympathize with the cops, who have to double, if not triple their numbers on account of these guys. All morning long they have to listen to these characters screaming about hellfire, the "devil" pretending to wave his disciples into the auditorium. Sheesh! Say what you will about Jehovah's Witnesses....perhaps you're not crazy about their visits....but they will never show up at your door dressed in a devil suit.

Really, of all the doctrines from the fundamentalists, "hellfire" is the easiest to pull apart. With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

Then there was Brother Wease. Now, Brother Wease is not a brother in the same sense as Brother Sheepandgoats, Brother Wheatandweeds, or Brother Pearlsandswine. It's a handle. Brother Wease is a local shock jock, modeled after Howard Stern. Unlike Howard, he's not syndicated, so he identifies with the local Rochester community, supports a lot of local causes, and indeed, is quite popular. First day of the convention he called the news department. Can they send someone he can interview on air? They did. Turns out that Wease had been visited by our people a few weeks ago, and he was impressed. His warning that he was the antichrist with no use for religion had not sent them scampering, as he had anticipated. Instead, they stayed, he warmed to them, and found some things he liked. He said nice things about that visit on air, right here. Even some of his on-air chums, who are essentially there to 'bust your chops,' came around - sort of. "These are my people," Wease enthused; he liked the part about Witnesses not going to war. Friday's interview isn't online yet. Go here, and scroll down. It will probably show up eventually

It's convention time. The same program is held worldwide in scores of locations, usually multiples times at each to serve folk from different areas. In the northern hemisphere it runs during 3-day windows in June-September. Then it goes into the southern hemisphere to pick up their summer.

***********************

Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

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The Devil Attends a Convention!

We were in a top secret meeting reviewing brainwashing techniques when in burst Tom Pearlsenswine, so excited. He'd just come across a blog entry: Church Wars! A group of Jehovah's Witnesses and a group of church evangelizers crossed swords on a public street - almost a brawl! giving residents great (and free) entertainment. It ended when the street spokesman yelled at both the JW leader and the church leader, but she yelled at the JW leader less! What a great experience! Pearlsenswine ventured. He wanted to post a comment. It would be a great witness for the Lord, he said. Of course, we all dropped everything to go online.

"Pearlsenswine, you idiot!" we remonstrated gently. "This is not a serious post. This guy is being creative. He's having fun. You go on there with your super-sober piety, and you'll make us all a laughingstock." But there's no reasoning with Pearlsenswine when he gets something into his head. His own website says it all: "He puts the dog into dogmatic!"

So off he goes commenting and, predictably, the writer returns with ".....um, I just made this up. 90% of it, anyway." What a bullet-headed lout our boy is!

But I got to chatting with this fellow on the real event that inspired his post, and it turns out that he's not particularly down on Jehovah's Witnesses. They are harmless and inoffensive enough, he opines. But the other group he can't stand.  "I like to be persuaded . . . not told by some righteous person that I am a lowlife that will burn in hell. That lot deserve to be parodied, especially the guy outside the tube (this fellow's British, just like Queen Elizabeth) station who is basically just a nasty bastard," he said. The group in his story paraded in around in public with a bloodied "Jesus" on a cross who twitched! Twitched! That's not a little sick? he suggests. (notwithstanding Mel Gibson's movie, which is required viewing for this bunch) "What a great piece of exaggeration!" I congratulated him. But no, he assured me, that part really happened. He had pictures.

This strikes a chord with me because we just finished up our district convention, this year themed Follow the Christ. Now, these firebrand groups can't stand JWs, mainly because we don't line up with their favorite doctrines: trinity and hellfire. So they always picket our conventions. One guy is dressed up in a "devil" suit, gesticulating. What on earth is he doing? He's waving his disciples into the auditorium!

Look, I realize that not everyone welcomes JW visits. Furthermore, I admit we are not always "smooth." It depends on the person, their experience & comfort level, the circumstances, and so forth. But I do pledge that we will never come to anyone's door in a devil suit.

The Devil's been showing up for several years now. Is it my imagination or was he 10 feet tall the first year (probably due to drywall stilts) whereas now he's just regular height? If it turns out he was never on stilts, his head will grow so big it will topple him off the stilts he was never on. It means he loomed larger than life in my imagination! It means he's getting under my skin!

Well, yeah, maybe a little. These guys are pretty obnoxious. Our people must form a human "corridor" so that conventioneers  can enter the building unmolested. It's not as if we couldn't find a better use for our time. Even the cops are fed up with them and threaten them with arrest when they try to physically obstruct entrance. After all, being assigned district convention duty is, for a cop, an easy gig. They simply direct traffic. Nothing more. Our people don't even stray outside the crosswalk! They're on their best behavior, imagining this gives "a good witness." The policeman stands there with a donut and exchanges pleasantries with our people as we cross this or that street.  What could be easier? But now they have to put up with these religious bigmouths who, this year, for the first time (I think) in Rochester, came with sound equipment, which they used to blast everyone's eardrums, reminding them about hellfire.

All this is sort of an annual joke. Those entering the auditorium rarely so much as look at these people. The general thought is that this will only encourage them, and so that's the word-of-mouth policy that we usually follow. Of course, following policy doesn't cut it with this bunch, who do anything they damn well like anytime they like. If our people decline to speak to them, they interpret it as "brainwashing," as if every conventioneer would just love to engage them in stimulating conversation, but the mean Watchtower won't let them.

 

....................................

[UPDATE: 2009 Keep on the Watch Convention]

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